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Posts Tagged ‘December’

I Need Christmas

I need Christmas. I think a lot of us do this year. I need the tree to be set up in the corner and to be indoors enjoying being warm and listening to Christmas music. I need it this year more than most.

I usually don’t set up a tree this early; not until the middle of the month most years. However, as I have seen a lot of people post on FB and mention in real life, there seems to be a need for the Christmas spirit quite early this year. I think, for most, it’s a comment on the political situation, not only here in the United States, but also internationally.

Christmas is not only about giving and receiving. To me, it’s about slowing down; it’s about reflecting; it’s about imagining; it’s about the past and about the future; about the young and the old. Christmas is inside of us but it’s best when it escapes a bit so it can be shared with those around us.

I don’t want to rush it. I want to relish it. I’m starting early this year. I’ve already watched my favorite holiday movie, It’s A Wonderful Life. I’ve already listened to my favorite Christmas playlist, complete with Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Dean Martin, Rod Stewart, and so many others. I have gotten gifts for just the grandsons. I might not make it to getting for others but I will try. I want to be able to sit and enjoy making some gifts (I’m going to try to remember how to crochet!) and learning some new crafty things. I think I will also have the boys over here to make a few Christmas crafts and maybe a gift for their mom and dad and for their other grandparents.

I’m so wanting Christmas that I might break down and bake. And for sure, there will be tamale making in the next couple of weeks!

Yes, I need Christmas and I’m setting it out to get it!

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Word

My friend over at Breezes At Dawn picks a word to guide her and to focus on for the year.  She has done this for awhile.  Each year I think I might do it but then I don’t.  This year I’ve really been thinking about it and thinking about what that word might be.

Through my blog reading and link following, I have come across a slew of other bloggers that do the same thing and that’s encouraging.  Last night I found a blog that will be posting links to people’s January 1 blog posts announcing their “word for the year” and again I am drawn to this idea.

I auditioned the word “focus” but then I remembered some unkind words someone in another life said to me decades ago and I decided focus is not this year’s word.  Although now I’m typing this and wondering why I should let said person intrude in my life again after all these years.  But there will, hopefully, be many more years to choose that word.

I’m still on the fence on whether to do it or not.  I think I have my word picked out.

How about you?  Do any of you choose such a word?  Pros?  Cons?  Speak to me!

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I signed up to do National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) in November and was able to post every day of the month.  I thought I would do it again in December so I signed up again.  So far I have posted every day in December as well but it has been a tough month to comply with that self-imposed challenge.  I’m glad I have older Christmas posts to repost or I would not have made it this far.  I’m glad I did it though because it has helped me to focus on this blog which went with absolutely no posts between July of 2013 and October of 2014!  I really needed to refocus on this blog and I’ve done that.  Now I need to find a comfortable number of posts per month so I am not just blabbering away or posting old things.  I’ll figure it out soon.  I’m thinking 20 posts a month is comfortable, and I can probably do more but I need to give myself license to not post every single day!

I’ll do NaBloPoMo again.  It’s a fun challenge and I’ve met some new bloggers this way but I just cannot do it every single month.  So I won’t.  There!  I may post every day.  I may post a couple of times a week.  I may post multiple times in a day.  I want it to be fun for me and entertaining for YOU!  If I lose track of that, then I might as well not blog!

So here’s to a consistently entertaining blog that fits my need to be creative and fits into your schedule of reading!

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5

Only 5 more days left in this year.  How do you handle year end?  Or are you still stuck in “Christmas” until the first of the year?

I am considering resolutions and plans for 2015.  I used to make resolutions until about eight years ago. That’s when I realized that I was just setting myself up for failure and who needs failure? So no more resolutions for me. 

A couple of years ago I started to challenge myself to do certain things instead of making resolutions.  For 2014 I challenged myself to read 80 books.  I have read 82 so far and am well into number 83.  Next year? Maybe I will challenge myself to meet my 80 books from this year as well as keep up my blog which is something I really want to do.  I’m trying to decide how many blog posts per month or per week will be comfortable for me. By January first, I will have decided how many to challenge myself to write without setting myself up to fail.

I also want to try my hand at photography and at zentangle, the latter of which I first heard about very recently from a fellow blogger. It is calling my name so I’m going to give it a try.

First I have to get through the coming five days so we’ll see what I end up deciding on.

How about you? Resolutions? Challenges?  New hobbies? 

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When I was growing up, I was the one who helped my mother do the everyday correspondence, even though I was the fifth of seven kids.  I remember being in second grade and being the one that filled out and addressed the Christmas cards for my mom every year.  I had to print because I didn’t know cursive yet.

One year I was filling out the cards and the card my mom had picked out was a really pretty one.  It had a bright red poinsettia on the front of it and on the inside it had the normal holiday greeting but on the backside of the front picture was a paragraph about the poinsettia being introduced to the United States in 1828 by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.  It also mentioned a Mexican legend about this flower, which in Mexico is known as la flor de la noche buena, or the Christmas Eve flower.  It didn’t tell the legend, it just mentioned that there was one.

That caught my interest and I started to wonder and ask and read about this beautiful flower.  After several years, I learned the legend.  I’ve shared it with my readers previously but I’d like to share it again.  I’ve put it into my own words.  I’ve changed the name of the little girl to Maria (she is called by different names in different versions of the story).  I just recently learned that December 12 is “the day of the poinsettia” in the United States, which is interesting to me because December 12 is also the day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico.

The Legend of the Poinsettia

[This is a retelling of the traditional legend of the poinsettia.  I have read many versions and have worded this one in my own words, from a number of variations on the traditional legend.]

In a small village in Mexico, many years ago, lived a family with three children.  The daughter was María and the oldest of the three.  Her two younger brothers were Pablo and José.  Her father worked wherever he could find a job, often traveling to villages far away for a few days of work.  María’s mother was a wonderful weaver.  People from villages nearby brought their weaving to her.  María helped to take care of her little brothers while her mother worked on the weaving.

One day, the priest from the village church came to see María’s mother to ask a favor of her.  Each year the villagers participated in a procession to the church where they re-enacted the birth of the Christ child.  The priest brought the blanket to cover baby Jesus to María’s mother to repair as it was frayed and damaged.  Instead, María’s mother said she would make a new one because the old one was too far gone.  She assured the priest it would be ready in time for the Christmas Eve procession.

The next day, María’s father left to a village to do some work.  He would be back in a week.  His children stood at the entry to their small house, smiling and waving at their father as he left then they went to school, María leading the way as she held on to her brothers’ small hands.  When the three children returned home, their mother was very ill.  María left to call the doctor who was in another village.  When the doctor came, he took care of María’s mother but told María that her mother had to remain in bed until she was well.  It would be some time.  María promised to take care of her mother and make sure she took her medicine.

For the next few days, María took care of her mother and her brothers and tried to finish weaving the blanket her mother had begun to make for the baby Jesus.  It was such an honor to be asked to contribute this small gift to the village’s tradition and to the Christ child.  Her mother had begun to teach her to weave but María couldn’t do it.  Instead, the thread became tangled in the loom and it was no use.  There would be no new blanket for the Christ child that year.  María cried in shame.  Her family would be dishonored and shamed.

When Christmas Eve arrived, María did not want to go to the procession because she was so ashamed of not having been able to make the blanket.  Her little brothers were looking forward to the procession and they pleaded with her to take them.  She finally agreed, thinking that she would hide in the bushes near the church, close enough to watch the procession and close enough to watch her little brothers but far enough to not feel her cheeks burn with shame.  So she took them to the procession and sank back into the bushes, out of sight.

From nowhere came an old beggar woman and asked María why she was hiding.  María told her what had happened.  The woman told her she had to join the others in the procession and participate in the tradition of bringing a gift to the Baby Jesus.  The woman told her it did not matter what she took as a gift to the Christ child.  The only thing that mattered was what was in her heart.  María argued that she could not join the procession with no gift but the woman convinced her that the gift would be joining in the procession and being present.

Not wanting to go into the church empty handed, María looked around her but found only some green leaves growing near the bushes.  She grabbed an arm full of them and joined the procession into the church.  As her turn came to proceed up the aisle to the manger, María walked with the bouquet of green leaves in her arms, tears running down her cheeks because she was so ashamed of having no gift.  As she placed the leaves at the manger as her family’s gift, she closed her eyes in shame.  She heard the collective gasp of everyone in the church and feared that they were laughing at her for bringing weeds to the Baby Jesus.  She opened her eyes and instead of the wild green leaves, she saw the most beautiful red flowers.  As her tears dropped onto the green leaves, each leaf turned a deep red.  They were the most beautiful flowers María had ever seen and they were her miracle gift to the Baby Jesus.

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(A compilation of Christmas tree stories I’ve posted throughout the years, and then some.)

We had always had real Christmas trees, not an  artificial one.  That’s how it was when I was a child and when I married, we always got real ones too.

In November of 1992, my husband left home, leaving the three kids and me behind.  When it was time to go out to get our tree the following month, the three kids and I went out and bought a real tree.  We always had a big 7 foot tree in that house so that’s what I picked out that year.  The guys at the Christmas tree lot tied it to the top of the car for us and we drove home.  When we got home, it became obvious that we had a problem.  First, in their infinite wisdom, the guys had tied the tree to the open windows of my station wagon.  We couldn’t get the doors open.  My son climbed out the window and went in and got some scissors to let us out of the car. By the time he got out, the girls had also climbed out their windows and I was the only one waiting, patiently, to be let out.  He didn’t cut the whole rope/twine.  He just pulled on it to get the door open enough for me to get out and cut one bit of the twine.  Then we had another problem.  The tree was too big and heavy for the kids and I to take it off the top of the car.  We couldn’t even reach it.  I went inside and called friends and a couple of the neighbors but no one was home or couldn’t help for one reason or another.  I called the kids’ dad but he said he wouldn’t come until the next time it was his turn to get the kids, in a few days.  I couldn’t leave the tree up there and drive all over town with it that way for three days.  Finally one friend called back and said her husband could come but not until the next day so the tree stayed on the car over night and in the morning, I drove the kids to school with the tree on top of the car.  I also picked them up after school with it up there.  Finally, my friend and her husband came and got it in the house for us.  It’s a good thing it was very cold or the poor tree would have died!

That was the last time we had a real Christmas tree for a long time.  The following year I debated about having a real tree or an artificial one and remembered all the hassle it had caused to get a real tree so I went to the local drug store and found a fairly decent one that was on sale and took that home.  The kids helped me set it up and decorate it but it wasn’t the same.  They accepted the artificial tree but missed having a real one.  However, it was nice to have a tree that we could set up year after year without having to cut one down each year.  When the fake tree got old and too tattered, it was replaced with another fake tree and the tattered one was donated to the school to use in the cafeteria.

In December of 2004, it was just my youngest (she was 14 then) and me left to set up the tree because she wanted to set it up before her brother and sister arrived on December 23rd.  We set up the artificial tree and decorated it.  She decided we didn’t have enough ornaments on it so we took a drive to Target to get a few more.  However, we walked out of Target with a new artificial tree!  Susie had fallen in love with a white pre-lit Christmas tree.  She also decided she wanted only blue and green decorations on the tree so we had to get a whole tree worth of green and blue ball ornaments and icicle ornaments.  I laughed because she decided she wanted that one and moved heaven and earth to get it.  She got someone there to agree that the tree should be a markdown item so we got the $150 tree for 60% off!  And it was gorgeous.  She even paid for the new green and blue ornaments with her money so I wouldn’t say it was too expensive.  She didn’t want to use the multicolored decorations we had because they would ruin her new tree.  All this she got away with because she looks at me oh-so-sweetly and smiles at me and hugs me and calls me “Mommy”.  And if that doesn’t work, she reminds me that she’s my “baby”.  Yup.  She knows how to work it!

We got home and had to take the green artificial tree down before we could even bring the white tree inside from the car and set it up.  It was a lot of work and although the white tree was sixty per cent off, it was still expensive but Susie was happy.  I made sure she helped take the green tree down and set up the white tree.  As far as decorating it, she took charge of the whole thing which was good because in previous years she had not shown much interest in helping to set it up!

For Christmas of 2006, my older daughter Tina, had moved to Santa Rosa near her sister and me.   One weekend, her roommate’s boyfriend took the girls up to the nearby mountains to cut a tree.  Tina loved it and insisted that we should go out and cut a tree for my house.  We had never done that, although we had spoken of doing it several times.  However, we didn’t have anyone to go with us to get the tree and actually cut if for us as the friend that had done it for the girls lived an hour away.

The next day, my son came over with his girlfriend. We were making tamales so she could learn to make them.  Tony’s girlfriend drives a small truck and that’s what they had come to visit us on.  Tina and Susie weren’t sure if they liked Sarah.  They hadn’t spent much time with her.  That day they got to know her and liked her.  Tina felt comfortable asking her if she’d take us to go get the Christmas tree.  She agreed.

So off we went in two cars, Sarah’s truck and my car because there were too many of us to go in the truck.  We got to the tree lot up in the mountains just before closing, when it was almost completely dark.  The owner let us on the lot to see if we could find a tree in the dark.  The girls kept running from one tree to the next, finding fault with every one of them until they came upon a very large tree that they agreed on.  Not having done this before, it did not occur to us that the tree would look a lot smaller than it really was when it was out in the open.  We didn’t compensate for that.  Tony cut the tree down and tied it to Sarah’s truck and we all headed home.

When we got home, the tree was too tall for the living room.  Tony ended up having to chop off about eighteen inches.  He stood it up in the living room and then we realized that not only was it very tall, it was also very big around.  It literally took up half the width of the living room with very little room on either side.  By the time the tree was set up and ready to decorate, the girls had lost interest in decorating it and Tony and Sarah had left to her family’s Christmas party.  The poor tree stood undecorated in the living room for several days.  Finally, on December 23, I threatened to not give the girls any of the gifts I had for them if the tree did not get decorated that night.  The tree was as beautiful decorated as it was too big for the room. It was gorgeous and we had learned that next time, if there ever was a next time, we would be sure to measure the tree before cutting it down.

The year Tina and I moved to Oregon, 2008,  Tina wanted to go out and cut down a tree.  I had my doubts that it would actually happen even though we live in the middle of many “cut your own” tree lots.  As luck would have it, the Arctic Blast storm intervened with Tina’s plans and we could not go out and get one.  It began to snow on Dec. 14th that year and didn’t stop until the 26th.  I could not even leave my driveway!  So I pulled out the artificial tree that I had thought to get when Tina and I had gone to Target on Black Friday.  It was the exact same tree kind of tree we had in Santa Rosa, a white pre-lit tree.  And although that Christmas almost didn’t happen for us, because of flights being canceled, when they finally arrived, we had a tree.

One very moving thing that happened when I posted my Christmas tree story in 2009 is that one of my readers contacted me about a tree.  I had posted that we probably would not have a tree that year because we were leaving town on the 20th and would not return home til the 27th.  That year, I knew it was a good chance that it would be our last year together at Christmas (with the family going off in different directions) and after the near debacle of the previous Christmas, I had rented a house in California, which had been home for many years.  My kids all had ties there and one of them lived there so it made sense to go there for Christmas.  However that meant that we would have no tree.  My reader lives in the Portland area and offered a small artificial tree that I could have to take with me to California.  It was great!  We met in the Target parking lot near the airport when she went to pick up her husband.  The tree was not only pre-lit but also had music and rotating base.  It was great!  We enjoyed it and then left it behind for the next family.

Christmas 2013

My grandson, Anderson, was three years old and loved the big Christmas tree they had at home, one we had gone out together to cut down.  I had decided I was not going to put up my tree because it was just too much work and it was only me at home.  No one was coming for Christmas.  Instead, I would go to my daughter’s house (she lives about a block away from me) for Christmas.  So no tree.  However, Anderson kept asking me where my tree was.  I kept telling him “no tree at Nana’s house this year” but he kept asking.  One day, less than a week til Christmas, we were at Big Lots and he saw a white pre-lit tree he liked.  It was only about 3 feet tall and because it was so late in the season, it was on clearance.  I think it was all of $10.  He kept saying “crammus tree for Nana’s house please”.  So we got it and he picked out gold and red ball ornaments.  We took it home and I set it up for him and he got to put the ornaments on the tree.  He even plugged the tree in for me to light it up.  He loved that tree and every time he came over, he would run to the tree and plug it in for me.  I even kept it up for an extra week or two because he loved it so much.

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For the last 59 years, children all over the world have listened to NORAD’s Santa Tracker on Christmas Eve to make sure he’s on his way to their house.  I know that as a child I listened to it.  We had one of those huge old radios made of wood with gold colored knobs on it and a big half circle dial that lit up when the radio was on.  My dad would listen to the radio until late every night when he came home from work.  On Christmas Eve, as we were bouncing off the walls with excitement, he would call us over and turn the dial and we would hear that eerie crackle-static-hum-buzz as the station tuned to the report of where Santa was at that moment.  We would hush and listen intently and when told we had to go to bed before Santa could come, we knew he was on his way and off to bed we went.

This morning, a friend posted a link on Facebook (thanks, Kris) that lead me to a story of how NORAD’s Santa Tracker got started.  As I read the article, I fought a losing battle with my tears.  This time of year makes me teary anyway but when I read about the man that started it all and how it was actually an accident that it even started, I couldn’t help it.  It seemed like magic to me and, afterall, isn’t that what Christmas is about–magic?!

According to the article, it started with a typo in a Sears store ad in which Santa invited children to call him day or night.  The ad listed the wrong phone number.  The number that was listed rang a special phone which sat on the desk of Col. Harry Shoup, the commander of the Continental Air Defense Command (now known as NORAD).  It was a special hotline phone that only two people knew the number to, Col. Shoup and a 4 star general at the Pentagon.  It was December of 1955–in the middle of the Cold War–and the special phone on Col. Shoup’s desk was a hotline to inform of an air attack on the United States.  Imagine the panic and then the irritation when the hotline rang one day and Col. Shoup answered to hear the voice of a child asking if he was Santa!  Shoup was outraged when he heard the child, thinking it was a joke, then he realized that the little boy was crying and that the call was real so he changed his tone and pretended to be Santa for the little boy then asked to talk to the boy’s mother who told Shoup how they got the number.  Sure enough, as Shoup looked up the Sears ad, the hotline phone kept ringing with tiny voices of children all over the United States, wanting to talk to Santa.  Shoup got two of his men and assigned them to answer the calls and pretend to be Santa.  It became a joke within Shoup’s men and one day, when Shoup walked in to the air command center where there was a huge glass board that tracked every airplane that came into American and Canadian air space, he saw that someone had drawn a sleigh with eight reindeer coming over the North Pole.  The men offered to take the drawing down but the Colonel looked at it for a few minutes then called the radio station and identified himself as the commander at the Air Alert Center and reported that there was an unidentified flying object that looked like a sleigh.  The radio stations ran with it and began to call the command center every hour for a report of where Santa was.  And that’s how it started.

Be sure to go read the article I linked to above.  The story is told by Col. Shoup’s three adult children.  They go on to tell of how Col. Shoup began to get letters from all over the world thanking him for creating the Santa Tracker.  He was so proud of those letters that he carried them around in a locked briefcase.

I once had a little taste of how it feels to be Santa for just a little while so I can imagine how Col. Shoup felt being able to bring the magic of Christmas and Santa to children around the world.  It’s a pretty special feeling…a magical feeling!

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Stille Nacht, or better known to most of us as Silent Night, was first sung on Christmas Eve in a St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria in 1818.  The lyrics were written by John Mohr, a young priest.  He had written the lyrics in 1816 but hand no music to go with the lyrics.  In 1818, he took the lyrics to Franz Xavier Gruber who was a schoolmaster and organist in a nearby village and asked him to compose the music to go with the lyrics.  Both Gruber and Mohr performed the Christmas carol on guitar at the church that December 24th.

Since then, it has been translated into 140 languages and recorded by countless artists.  It is said that it is the one song that American, German, and French troops could sing together during the Christmas truces of World War I in 1914 because it was the one song they all knew the lyrics to in their own language.  I’m thinking that must have been some awfully inspirational sight and sound, out in the middle of battlefields, all those soldiers stopping their fighting, putting their guns away and singing together.

It’s one of my favorite Christmas carols.  To me, the lyrics and the serenity of the music are what the Christmas season should be about.

On another note (no pun intended) I usually post my Christmas stories based on my own Christmas memories during the month of December.  I haven’t done that and I’m running out of time.  So tonight (it’s almost 11 pm as I wite this), along with the words above, I’m also posting links to one of my Christmas stories.  I hope you click on it and read it and enjoy it!

The Night I Saw Santa!

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Tonight we went out to dinner for my birthday.  It isn’t my birthday for two more weeks, however that will be Christmas day and not only are many restaurants closed on Christmas, but Christmas isn’t really a day to go out to dinner, at least not in my book.  Years ago, my daughter signed us both up for all sorts of free deals for our birthdays (her’s is two weeks after Christmas).  So for her birthday we run around during her birth month and she gets free meals, or a free appetizer or a dessert or some other item.  For my birthday, we rarely do it because it’s such a busy month, besides a lot of places exclude the use of the birthday coupon on holidays so even if they are open for Christmas, I would not be able to use my freebie coupon.

So tonight it was a free meal at Benihana.  Great deal because they are not only pricey but a fun place to go to enjoy not only dinner but a show!  The boys love it there and tonight they were both mesmerized by the cooking and what was going on at the grill.  The chef was particularly good and showed the kids some neat tricks.  When we were leaving, the waitresses commented on how big the boys are getting.  We go every January for my daughter’s birthday then again in March for Anderson’s birthday and in October for their dad’s birthday and in December for mine.  So they know the kids there!  That’s important when you’re going out to dinner with the kids.  The staff comes around and takes good care of us and provide distractions for the boys, if needed.

So for the next couple of weeks we’ll try to use up my free meal coupons but I probably won’t get to use most of them because of work schedules.  I don’t like to go eat alone and with the rest of the grownups working different schedules, it makes it harder.  But tonight’s dinner was excellent in all ways.  And they sang to me and treated me extra nice!  Bonus!  I’m not used to that.

Okay, off to plot when I can go collect my free bowl of noodles at Noodles & Company!

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I don’t watch a lot of TV.  There are only four shows I watch on any sort of regular basis.  They are all on winter break right now so there isn’t anything to watch.  I stream movies and shows if and when I want to turn on the TV to watch something.  Tonight however, I came back from the nightly drive to look at Christmas ligths with my grandsons and the house was too quiet.  I turned on the TV and I didn’t even have to switch the channel because it was already tuned to a show I didn’t know I wanted to watch…The I Love Lucy Christmas Special!  I have always loved Lucy’s antics.  In fact, when I was a little girl, I used to love Lucy so much tht I wanted people to call me Lucy!

So now I’m sitting watching Lucy and Ethel and Ricky and Fred trim the tree for Christmas and dress like Santa to put all of Little Ricky’s gifts under the tree.  I’m glad I turned it on when I did.  The show fills me with laughter and memories.  You can’t beat that.

Okay, back to my show!

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